Have you ever been asked to babysit? What about housesit? Then you’ve been a steward. In fact if you’ve ever taken care of anything that is someone else’s then you have been a steward. The reality is we all are stewards of everything we “own”. God has entrusted us with our families, relationships, possessions, talents and trusts we will be faithful with them because they are really His. Paul understood this principle. In 1 Corinthians 4:1-6 we find Paul explaining his stewardship. He begins by saying he, Peter and Apollos were “servants of Christ”. This word “servant” can be translated “minister” and literally means “under-rower”. An under-rower described a Roman slave who rowed underneath the deck of his master’s ship. Each rower was as important as the man next to him and all had the vital task of powering a ship that wasn’t theirs. So Paul, Peter, and Apollos were “rowing” this “ship” of ministry but the one at the helm was Christ. It was His ship and they desired to minister faithfully.
In verse two, Paul said stewards must be found faithful. Just because you have something of someone else’s doesn’t mean you’re taking care of it. You must treat it in a way that pleases the owner. Other rowers, ship workers, and observers may or may not be pleased but if the Master of the ship is pleased (Jesus) they had fulfilled their stewardship faithfully. This makes me ask, “Am I a good steward? Do I value what others think more than Christ? Is He pleased with my ‘rowing’?” That’s what really matters most. The most important issue is not am I popular or is some other rower better than me. The real issue is how I am doing and am I pleasing the Master. Am I faithfully ministering and serving the duties assigned me (my calling) by Christ? If so, I will please God and be rewarded by Him.
While I desire to please Christ alone, I must remember a steward is always being watched by others. How do I respond with people criticize or judge me? Paul handled judgments well. He knew there were three kinds of judgment. 1 Corinthians 4:3 says there are human judgments and self-judgment. While it’s not wrong to have others giving input into your life (Ephesians 4:15) or even evaluate your own life (2 Corinthians 13:5) there is a third judgment that matters most. 1 Corinthians 4:4 says the most important judgment is the one Christ brings. He does this through his Word (Hebrews 4:12) and the ministry of His Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:15; John 16:8) but one day the Christian will stand before the judgment seat of Christ (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10) and the true facts will be revealed and the steward’s faithfulness rewarded. We need others helping us grow in Christ (Proverbs 27:17) and we must be honest in our self-evaluation (Romans 12:3) but its Christ’s opinion that ultimately matters most.
It’s not wrong for Christians to judge other Christians (Read 1 Corinthians 5:12-13). But we can judge in a wrong way. Paul said we can judge incorrectly in three ways in 1 Corinthians 4:5-6. We can judge at the wrong time. Maybe it isn’t ours to judge? Our judgments in the end really don’t matter because Christ will judge. He alone “brings to light the hidden things of darkness and reveals the heart”. The second way we judge Christians wrongly is with the wrong standards. Paul was confronting the judgment of one man to another in verse six. We are to be judged against the reputation and character of Christ. Lastly we can judge with the wrong motive. We can be, as he said, “puffed up” which will destroy the church and one’s own heart through pride. Be careful of your motives, standards, and timeliness in evaluation of another believer and trust Christ will take care of what is His.